My Most Recent QSO's

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Sound of a "Straight Key"

My pre-breakfast QSO this morning was with KD0V in Minnesota. (I’ve also worked Merlin before) (Sept. 30th). He had a good copy on me (569) but I kept the power at my maximum 10 watts. (I usually reduce power when I get a reception report like this).

We exchanged the usual weather, rig specs, and antenna and then it was time for breakfast.

Merlin uses a Tentec Jupiter at 100 watts and a G5RV antenna. He lives about 750 miles from me in a small town a little south of St Paul, MN.

I love those Tentec rigs because the keying is so sharp. I can usually recognize one immediately when I hear the first “dot”. It’s an incredibly sharp, crisp, “chirp” that’s very distinctive.

The more I operate on the ham bands, the more I recognize different “tones”. Some home built QRP rigs have a sloppy “fuzzy” tone and they "drift" a little, when in a long QSO. Sometimes I hear a “keyboard” CW operator. They’re “typing” on a computer with a program that sends it on the air. I can’t really describe it in words but I recognize the sounds. It has a “mechanical” sound that’s “too perfect” for a normal operator to achieve.

I used “iambic paddles” for many years before I retired from the paint store. In a contest, an "exchange" can be in the neighborhood of about 20 wpm or faster. But I wouldn’t try to carry on a conversation at this speed. It's also discouraging to new operators....

I’ve found the most "enjoyable" CW mode is a “straight key” at about 13 wpm. I bought an imitation “Navy Training Key” several months ago, and rarely use the "paddles" anymore. I can tell quickly who is using the same type of key. There’s something special about the sound of a “straight key”. There’s a “personality” that comes across on the air with this type of key and it’s enjoyable to hear on the bands.

A few months ago, I removed the microphone from my rig. I’ll still use it occasionally (probably for DX on the 20 meter band) but I don’t miss it…..

Merlin (KD0V) is a member of the “Straight Key Century Club”, the “FISTS” Club and the North American QRP CW Club.
You can learn more about a "Straight Key" here:

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